Last week I got an email from Mr. R, Mina's third grade teacher. Gone is the era of teacher's notes and phone calls because in our time we all figured out how to intercept these didn't we? How many of us had our mother's signature down? I had fooled the nuns of St. Timothy's more than once. And until our grade schoolers learn how to hack into our email accounts, email it will be.
The email read that Mina had not been going to her after-school reading program. For the entire month of May. Twice a week she is supposed to go straight from the finishing bell to the library to work on a language-reading program to strengthen her skills. "She just hasn't gone?" I asked, surprised. Nope, he said, basically. I envisioned her jetting to the monkey bars or the handball court instead where she reigns supreme. Why not go for a little self affirmation instead of that tricky time-suck of a reading program? I immediately thought of ways to whoop that ass, but on the heels of this pending molestation case at Maya's school, my mind waffled between Whoop Little Ass and What If There's Another Reason? My stomach roiled in worry and waffling for hours until she got home.
She had indeed fucked off the reading program. But it was half justified in her mind. She believed that we had an unspoken agreement that she could stop going to the program once she got to a certain level. But for the most part she knew she was sneaking off. I had to ask: "Do any of the teachers in the program make you uncomfortable." "No!" She said and then went on and on about Phil, the aide, who is awesome. I didn't whoop that ass. I calmly gave an award-winning, heart-felt speech power-pointing illustrious themes such as Make Better Decisions for Yo'self, Damit. I even pulled the Trust theme off the shelf. I only use this theme sparringly, without any flippancy or irony. It has to be used poignantly borderlining theatrical. "And you have extra chores and you're grounded this week from Top Chef and So You Think You Can Dance --- Wha? I KNOW I didn't hear you just whine . . ." She got the point and I patted myself on the back. I looked out the window and sipped my coffee. Parenting: I Got This.
Yesterday I got another email from Mr. R. It read, simply: "At recess Mina called another student a bitch." WHAT IN THE FUCK was my first thought, which I realize is not the most appropriate of reactions when your child is being called out as the class potty mouth. I wrote back, "Lord have mercy . . ."
Here's what happened:
Pete, another third grader and who is, in general, a thorn in Mina's side on the playground because he is a cheater of games and annoying, cut in line in front of Mina as they filed up to go back to class after recess. After being cut in front of, Mina mumbled, "Bitch." She didn't speak directly to him really, she wasn't all, "Hey, bitch, I was fucking here" or "Get to the back, bitch." She didn't even bastardize the word into "biach", but she did say to herself, loud enough for three of her classmates to hear, "Bii-ch."
Between me, Husband and my adult friends, this is very funny, and yet still a blow to my parenting skills. That my sweet 55lb girl mutters Bitch in context and like she's grown is both hilarious and nerve wracking. But the fact that she didn't have sense enough to keep that shit to herself bothers me. Not that Mina's a pure angel. In fact, Husband thought he heard her mumble this once before when she almost dropped the Wii controller during a fierce bout of tennis. Husband said when he heard it, he cocked his head and hesitated and then said to himself, "Naaaa." Since hearing of the Bitch Incident, Husband and I will mumble to each other at random times, "bitch," or we'll IM each other during the day, "Pete's a lil bitch" though we do commend Pete for not actually being the one to have tattled on Mina. Her three classmates ratted her out. Husband and I say to each other, "Pete may be a bitch, but he knows the code of the street."
It's not like Maya didn't go through her period of saying inappropriate shit in her grade school days either. She never got busted for cursing, but her coup de grâce was when, in second grade, she walked up to her teacher who was speaking to the principal (the principal!), held out a bag of Fritos and said, "Anybody want some freshly farted chips?" I'm still baffled by that one. Her teacher called me immediately after school, and I tried not to laugh, but when she said, "This is very inappropriate for a young lady," I said, "Listen, she's in second grade and boogers and farting are funny. You wouldn't be calling me had a boy said this to you, right?" Silence. I didn't think so now go eat your fart chips.
The day of the Bitch Incident, I was waiting for Mina at her class door as the bell rang. When she spilled out of class with the others, she was elated to see me -- for a second -- until she realized I was probably there to whoop that ass. During the walk home she gave me a brief explanation and then I gave a fifteen minute heated speech entitled, Oh, You Think You're Grown? "You can say grown words and skip out on your reading program like you're grown, right? Not only say grown words but RUDE grown words, right? When do you even hear that word. We don't say that word." Which is true. If she had said, Hell No or Holy Shit or Fuck That, then I would shoulder much of the responsibility. She said, "I dunno." "You don't know? Maya doesn't say that (I hope), where do you hear that?" And she said in the meekest of voices, "From the streets." I nearly rolled in the grass. I some how stayed in character: "Since you're grown, I think we should take you out of school and get you a job." "No, mami," "Yup, you need a job since you're making grown decisions, no matter how bad. Mmmhmm, make your own food, buy your own clothes." "No, mami!" "Where can we get you a job?" And on. By the time we got home it seemed she did not, in fact, want to be grown, that the word bitch had just slipped out of her mouth but yes! She could control herself. Then we went upstairs and I washed her mouth out with soap. Yes, I did. Old school!
My next door neighbor Molly asked, "You didn't use that good, organic soap did you?" I said, "The one that smells like cinnamon and tastes like oatmeal? No, that would've been a treat." I used a bar of Ivory that we had lying around for an art project. I didn't acutally get it in her mouth, really, but she had a nice slathering of Ivory lip balm. The point was made. She got more chores and extra reading -- and I think she's straight now, but still I await, anxiously, for more emails from Mr. R.
Parenting: It's a day-to-day, roll-with-the-punches experiment. Bitch!